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Could the Covid surge be hurting Trump in the midwest?

Josephine Tovey
·6-min read
<span>Photograph: Ross D Franklin/AP</span>
Photograph: Ross D Franklin/AP

Welcome to today’s US election briefing for Australia.

For someone who wants less focus on the coronavirus in the final week of the campaign, Donald Trump sure spends a lot of time talking about the coronavirus.

As he maintains a frenetic schedule of rallies in key swing states, the president has continued to downplay the virus, with his team even suggesting the pandemic has “ended”, despite case numbers continuing to soar. “Covid, Covid, Covid is the unified chant of the Fake News Lamestream Media,” he tweeted on Wednesday. “They will talk about nothing else until November 4th.”

Even without his tweets, it’s a hard story to ignore. The death toll topped 1,000 in the US today, according to the Covid Tracking Project, and the number of people admitted hospital peaked in 13 states. New cases are up 40% in the last fortnight.

The escalating pandemic is one explanation for a shocking poll out today, which gave Joe Biden a 17-point lead in Wisconsin, a state Trump won by less than 1% in 2016. Cases there have risen by 46% in two weeks, and are averaging about 4,221 a day (Wisconsin has a population of about 5.8 million, smaller than Victoria). I maintain my wariness of all polls and stress this one was a major outlier - but as FiveThirtyEight’s Nathaniel Rakich points out, the ABC News/Washington Post poll is one with a strong methodology, and comes amid some other strong (though not that strong) polls for Biden in the region, so should not be dismissed altogether. Rakich thinks the worsening virus is likely to be the reason, if Trump’s support is dropping there.

While the north-east and the southern states felt the brunt of the virus earlier in the year, it is the midwest and west seeing some of the biggest spikes now – including some key battleground states.

Still, Trump is counting on his message of triumph over the virus carrying him over the line in enough states to thread a repeat electoral college victory. That thousands of supporters gather in tightly packed crowds wherever he goes, frequently mask-free, is an indication that a lot of people, despite what polls say, are buying it.

The big stories

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden appears on a Zoom with Oprah Winfrey at the Queen theatre in Wilmington, Delaware.
Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden appears on a Zoom with Oprah Winfrey at the Queen theatre in Wilmington, Delaware. Photograph: Andrew Harnik/AP

The supreme court has rejected a last-minute plea from Pennsylvania Republicans to overturn a three-day extension of the absentee ballot deadline, a hugely consequential ruling in one of the most closely watched swing states.

A state court has struck down an order that would have banned guns within 100ft (30m) of polling stations in Michigan. Democrats have warned of voter intimidation but gun owners say they want to be ready for leftwing groups trying to incite violence.

The identity of Anonymous, a Trump official who claimed in 2018 there was a “a quiet resistance” within the administration working to save America, has revealed himself as Miles Taylor, a former chief of staff at the Department of Homeland Security.

Seven people were taken to hospital after they were stranded in the cold after a late-night Trump rally at an airport in Nebraska. A large portion of the crowd remained at the site waiting on buses hours after Trump’s plane had departed.

Nigel Farage has spoken at a Trump rally, showering the US president with praise and describing him as the “most resilient and brave person” he had ever met.

Will the supreme court decide the election? Probably not, but here’s a handy explainer on how and why it could become involved.

If Biden wins the election, he will face enormous pressures to implement a laundry list of priorities on a range of issues from foreign policy to the climate crisis. But, as this piece explores, the pandemic will be problem number one.

African Americans are often depicted as a single, unified bloc, and many analysts warn Democrats that therein lies the problem. This feature explores why Democrats’ ability to speak to Black voters’ diversity is key to victory.

The election is taking place against an increasingly desperate backdrop for many Americans struggling with broken state unemployment systems and fighting to obtain benefits, as moratoriums on disconnecting utilities expire and evictions continue, despite a federal suspension.

Quote of the day

Trump’s now back in charge. It’s not the doctors.”

This doesn’t seem as reassuring as he may have thought. What Jared Kushner told journalist Bob Woodward about the pandemic in a taped interview in April, released today.

Election views

“The American electoral system is a shambles defying democratic norms,” writes the former Australian foreign minister Bob Carr. “The contrast with our own is a reminder to Australians of our civic accomplishments – not least an independent Australian Electoral Commission.”

Far right leaders around the world like what they have seen from Trump, writes Cas Mudde. While only a minority internationally might like him, they have become more committed and more open about their support.

Video of the day

Guardian US reporter Kenya Evelyn travels home to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, one of the most segregated cities in the country to find out what Biden can do to truly earn the votes of Black Americans, who are fed up, calling out racial inequality and frustrated with a party some say ignores their issues until it’s time to vote.

Around the web

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has given an in depth interview to Vanity Fair on the election, her political future and what it’s like being the latest female “bogeyman” of the Democrats.

Despite Trump’s claimed antipathy to fighting foreign wars, he has dramatically escalated US counterterrorism activity in Yemen, far beyond the levels he inherited from Barack Obama, reports the Daily Beast.

The NYT has created this interactive asking readers to guess whether someone is a Trump or Biden supporter based on the contents of their fridge. I feel like I learned nothing from this strangely addictive quiz except that Americans buy milk in quantities suitable for bathing in.

What the numbers say: 14 billion

The projected cost, in US dollars, of the 2020 race, according to the NYT.

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